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Lending a Hand

By Dayna Ballantyne and Valerie Garr

Nursing is synonymous with caring—for patients from birth through end-of-life, and for the health and well-being of communities everywhere. Thanks to the power of private support, nursing students at the University of Iowa are getting the chance to exhibit care in a different way, helping to lighten the academic burden of those who aspire to join them as tomorrow’s health care professionals.

Created in 2011, the UI College of Nursing Supplemental Instruction (SI) program helps nursing students master content essential to nursing coursework. The program provides peer-assisted study sessions facilitated by nursing-student leaders who have previously performed well in the course for which they’re instructing. The instructors then attend class lectures, take notes, and act as mentors for participating students.

SI participant Lindsay Wayne credits the program for broadening her content knowledge. “Supplemental Instruction provided a different approach to reviewing materials,” said Wayne. “We were given games, drawings, comparisons, as well as real nursing scenarios that made the topic easier to relate to and understand. The students in SI were also a great help. With their different perspectives and questions, I was able to broaden my knowledge on the topic being discussed.”

Gabriel Jaramillo-Salgado also noted the benefits of peer interaction. “I really appreciated the tutors, because if there was ever anything unclear they would make sure that one way or another we understood the material and they were always willing to spend extra time to help the students.”

The program is mutually beneficial as it provides instructors with valuable learning experiences of their own.

“I really enjoy the Supplemental Instruction program and find that it is very beneficial to our future as nurses,” noted nursing student and SI instructor Adam Connell. “It’s one thing to get a good grade in the class, but it is a whole new level of comprehension to help others learn the material as well. We’re constantly finding ways to connect the material in the lectures with actual experiences we’ve had in our various clinical rotations.”

The investment of time in Supplemental Instruction yields more than just academic returns for participants and instructors. Nursing student and SI instructor Patricia Leeney appreciates the relationships the program fosters. “I think that the best thing about the program is that it creates bonds between nursing students at all levels of the program. It’s a great feeling at the end of the semester when I can step back and realize how much I have gotten to know the students through SI.”

The SI program is led by current nursing students who have a GPA of 3.33 or higher, and have earned a B+ or better in the course they are instructing. The program is overseen by UI College of Nursing Diversity Coordinator Valerie Garr; Linda Myers, B.S.N. academic advisor; and Tara Lamb, Early Admission program advisor. Garr, Myers, and Lamb also oversee NEST (Nursing Educational Support Team), a program that provides additional academic support in the College of Nursing student lounge for nursing and nursing interest students who need or prefer academic tutoring (group or individual) on a drop-in, drop-out basis.

“Nursing is a practice discipline,” explained Garr. “Because our instructors are experienced nursing students who have not only mastered the course material they instruct, but have also experienced clinical situations, they have a unique lens to help our students connect the material they are learning to application and cause/effect logic—learning strategies that move beyond rote memorization or reciting the one correct response.”

With a national shortage of nursing faculty, Garr has noticed another key benefit of the program. “We are also finding that some of our SI/NEST instructors are discovering their love of teaching.”

The Supplemental Instruction and Nursing Educational Support Team programs are made possible by annual support through the Nursing Progress Fund. Gifts to the Nursing Progress Fund provide unrestricted support that enables the college to take advantage of special opportunities—such as the Supplemental Instruction program—as they arise.

For information about how private support helps the UI College of Nursing continue to prepare the nurses of tomorrow, visit

Posted On: 
Oct 1st, 2013